Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hi From the Americana Music Association Conference

Category: News

The eighth annual Americana Music Association conference is currently open for registration in Nashville. The panels and keynotes begin tomorrow. Tonight is registration, some shows at three venues in Nashville (I'll be seeing Steve Forbert), and a previously-scheduled tribute to Porter Wagoner hosted by Marty Stuart and Jim Lauderdale.

Murphy's Law has attacked me -- the battery in my laptop is dead (as in, cannot be recharged), and the hotel I'm staying at has weak wireless reception. Nevertheless, I hope to blog as close to live as possible with the awards ceremony tomorrow night at the Ryman (I do know that Joe Ely has been announced as a lifetime achievement recipient) and other events as they happen.

Keynotes at the conference include Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett. And, the Americana Music Association's web site has announced that former Attorney General of the U.S. Janet Reno will be speaking at one of the panels.

It promises to be a fun, exciting week for Americana music -- the music that comes from various genres into one, fun, honest package.

I'm off to the lobby, where a three-piece band called the Rust Kings is doing a marvelous rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone."

Kudos to RFD TV

Category: News

RFD-TV, the rural network that is on Dish and DirecTV as well as a number of cable systems, carries The Porter Wagoner Show on Friday night.

While watching another country music program last night I saw RFD-TV's tribute to Porter Wagoner. It featured slow-motion clips of the ever-smiling Porter from his show while the Vince Gill/Dolly Parton version of "I Will Always Love You" played. The ending was cleverly edited to sound as though they were singing, "WE'LL always love you." The final scene was Porter's boots walking down the hall, the scene that began his show for what seemed to me to be centuries as I watched it growing up. He opened the door to walk onto the stage, but at that point RFD-TV faded it to white, then to black.

Outstanding job, RFD-TV. And, many thanks for carrying his show.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trivia for October 30

Category: News/Trivia

On this date in 1937, Johnnie Wright married Muriel Deason.

That was 70 years ago, and the Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells, and Johnnie Wright are still happily married.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, November 1-15

Category: News

November 1:

Bill Anderson born in Columbia, South Carolina, 1937 (now 70)
Lyle Lovett born in Klein, Texas, 1957 (now 50)
Keith Stegall born in Wichita Falls, Texas, 1954 (now 53)
Lew Childre born in Opp, Alabama, 1901 (died 1961)
Buddy Killen died (cancer), 2006 (was 73)

November 2:

Charlie Walker born in Copeville, Texas, 1926 (now 81)
k.d. lang born in Consort, Alberta, 1961 (now 46)
Elaine Tubb, wife of Ernest and subject of the song "Blue-Eyed Elaine," died, 2001 (was 85)
John David Souther born in Detroit, Michigan, 1945 (now 62)

November 3:

Fabor Robison born in Beebe, Arkansas, 1911 (died 1986)
Leon Huff born in Whitesboro, Texas, 1912 (died 1952)
John Maddox (Maddox Brothers & Rose) born in Boaz, Alabama, 1915 (died 1968)
Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams become the first inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, 1961
Merle Haggard granted parole from San Quentin, 1960

November 4:

Kim Forrester born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1960 (now 47)
Will Rogers born near Oologah, Oklahoma, 1879 (died 1935)
Audrey Williams died (illness), 1975 (was 52)
Dale Noe died (unknown cause), 2004 (was 76)

November 5:

Roy Rogers born in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1911 (died 1998)
Roy Horton born in Broad Top, Pennsylvania, 1914 (died 2003)
Billy Sherrill born in Phil Campbell, Alabama, 1936 (now 71)
Gram Parsons born in Winter Haven, Florida, 1946 (died 1973)
Johnny Horton died (car wreck), 1960 (was 35)
Jimmie Davis died (natural causes), 2000 (was 101)
Dorothy Southworth Ritter died (natural causes), 2003 (was 88)

November 6:

Stonewall Jackson born in Emerson, North Carolina, 1932 (now 75)
Guy Clark born in Monahan, Texas, 1941 (now 66)
Glenn Frey born in Detroit, Michigan, 1948 (now 59)
Louisiana Hayride welcomes Elvis Presley as member, 1954

November 7:

Archie Campell born in Bull's Gap, Tennessee, 1914 (died 1987)
Robin Lee born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1953 (now 54)
A.P. Carter died (illness), 1960 (was 68)
Red Foley's daughter, Shirley, married Pat Boone, 1953
Gene Wooten died (cancer), 2001 (was 49)

November 8:

Scotty Wiseman born in Ingalls, North Carolina, 1909 (died 1981)
Patti Page born in Claremore, Oklahoma, 1927 (now 80)
Ivory Joe Hunter died (lung cancer), 1974 (was 60). A number of the R&B singer/songwriter's songs were turned into country hits by Sonny James, including "Since I Met You, Baby" and "Empty Arms."

November 9:

George D. Hay born in Attica, Indiana, 1895 (died 1968)
Curly Fox born in Graysville, Tennessee, 1910 (died 1995)
James "Spider" Rich, co-writer of "Yakety Sax," died (unknown cause), 2003 (was 80)

November 10:

Donna Fargo born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, 1940 (now 67)
Paul Cohen born in Chicago, Illinois, 1908 (died 1970)
Onie Wheeler born in Senath, Missouri, 1921 (died 1984)
Pat Severs of Pirates of the Mississippi born in Elmira, New York, 1952 (now 55)
Dave "Stringbean" Akeman died (murdered), 1973 (was 58)
Curly Fox died (natural causes), 1995 (was 85)
The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sinks in Lake Superior, killing all 29 aboard, 1975. The accident inspired Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 pop/country/folk hit "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

November 11:

Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland born in Cow Pens, South Carolina, 1930 (died 2004)
Narvel Felts born near Keiser, Arkansas, 1938 (now 69)

November 12:

Barbara Fairchild born in Lafe, Arkansas, 1950 (now 57)
Ground broken for construction of the Grand Ole Opry House (current home of the Opry), 1971
John Lair, Renfro Valley Barn Dance founder, died (natural causes), 1985 (was 91)

November 13:

Jack Guthrie born in Olive, Oklahoma, 1915 (died 1948)
Buddy Killen born in Florence, South Carolina, 1932 (died 2006)
Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. died (car wreck), 1973 (was 20)
Junior Samples died (heart attack), 1983 (was 57)

November 14:

Ken Carson born in Coalgate, Oklahoma, 1914 (died 1994)
Robert Whitstein died (heart attack), 2001 (was 57)

November 15:

William Fries (C.W. McCall) born in Audubon, Iowa, 1928 (now 79)
Jack Ingram born in Houston, Texas, 1970 (now 37)

We Lost Him in the Carroll County Accident

Category: News

Although totally expected, given the somber news over the past week, the death of Porter Wagoner is no less sad.

Wagoner, 80, died Sunday night, less than two days after being released to hospice care and 12 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Porter Wayne Wagoner was born August 12, 1927 in West Plains, Missouri. He began singing on radio in Springfield, Missouri in the early 50s before joining the Ozark Jubilee with Red Foley. In 1954, he scored his first hit, "Company's Comin'." His next hit would be his biggest, 1955's "A Satisfied Mind." The song stayed at #1 for four weeks.

For the next 15 years, Wagoner was a staple on country radio, either as a solo performer or with duet partner Dolly Parton. His solo hits included "Green, Green Grass of Home," "Misery Loves Company" (which was written by Jerry Reed in the early 1960s), "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," and "Your Old Love Letters." Among his more popular duets with Parton were "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man," "Making Plans," and "Yours Love."

He also hosted a syndicated television show that featured Norma Jean as the first "girl singer" before Parton joined the cast in 1967. Other familiar faces on The Porter Wagoner Show included Buck Trent (who played an electric banjo), Speck Rhodes, and dancing fiddler Mack Magaha.

Steve Eng published a biography on Wagoner, A Satisfied Mind, in 1992. Wagoner had a street in his hometown named for him. In 2002 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

When life has ended, my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones I'll leave, there's no doubt
But there's one thing for certain, when it comes my time
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

A sad and heartfelt farewell to "the thin man from West Plains," Porter Wagoner, 1927-2007.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Morgan, Kershaw to Divorce

Category: News

Sammy Kershaw ran for lieutenant governor of Louisiana. He lost the election last week, and now he is losing his wife.

Lorrie Morgan filed divorce papers to end her six-year marriage to the singer on Tuesday in Sumner County court. She cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split. This is Morgan's fifth marriage and Kershaw's fourth.

The couple had separated in 2003, then reconciled the next year. They renewed their wedding vows earlier this year.

Morgan is the daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame singer George Morgan; Sammy Kershaw is the third cousin of Cajun fiddler/singer Doug Kershaw.

Country Hound's article

Update on Porter Wagoner

Category: News

The Associated Press is reporting that Porter Wagoner has been released from a Nashville hospital and transferred to hospice care. Wagoner was diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks ago.

The Americana Music Association's conference has a "salute to Porter Wagoner," which is to be hosted by Marty Stuart (who produced Wagoner's most recent album, Wagonmaster) and Jim Lauderdale, on the conference's opening night schedule (October 31). This was announced and planned prior to Wagoner's diagnosis.

Here's hoping it doesn't become a memorial instead of a salute.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Trivia for October 26

Category: News/Trivia

On October 26, 1999, singer/songwriter/actor Hoyt Axton died of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

Hoyt's songs included "Joy to the World" and "Never Been to Spain," which were hits by Three Dog Night, "The Pusher" by Steppenwolf, and The No-No Song" by Ringo Starr. He also had hits with his own songs, including "When the Morning Comes," which featured Linda Ronstadt on harmony vocals, and "Bony Fingers," which contains simple truth: "Work your fingers to the bone, what do you get? Bony fingers."

Hoyt's mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote "Heartbreak Hotel."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tim Wilson and the Nonstop Talker

Category: Review/Opinion

Tim Wilson opened his second week of performances at Louisville's Comedy Caravan on Wednesday night (10/24) on a very sour note -- but through no fault of his own. Before he could so much as say "hello" to the crowd, a woman sitting in the front row began talking non-stop to the comedian. Wilson pleaded with her to stop talking, but unfortunately, the more he asked, the more she talked. She finally stormed out, after throwing her glass at Wilson, when he called her "arrogant."

I remember seeing Dan Fogelberg in 1982, on his tour for the album The Innocent Age. Personally, I found this to be Fogelberg's "wimpy" era. There was certainly nothing on that album that matched "Old Tennessee" from Captured Angel or "As the Raven Flies" from Souvenirs. Further, I'm sure that even Fogelberg's biggest fans will admit that "Longer" may qualify as the worst song he's ever written. Having said that, I could totally understand why Fogelberg begged an audience member to stop after the concert goer decided the line, "Higher than any bird ever flew," needed bird chirping sound effect accompaniment. (This was in the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia, with a crowd of about 12,000, so that should tell you (a) how quiet the audience was in anticipation of enjoying Fogelberg performing his big, if smarmy, hit; and (b) just how loudly this bozo was doing the bird chirps!) Fogelberg lost track of where he was in the song and started over. Before beginning the song again he said, "This is hard enough as it is."

Where are manners at public performances? How many times have you been to an event and heard someone's cell phone go off? That happened when I was in Nashville in September attending the "Poets and Prophets" session with Bobby Braddock. It's happened in religious services (folks, God ain't gonna call you on your cell phone, so TURN IT OFF!). It's even happened in the Comedy Caravan -- after they make three announcements to turn them off.

Someone pays twelve bucks to see a comedian (that's a third of a tank of gas, y'know), and they think that their money entitles them to talk to their date so loudly that no one sitting nearby can hear what's being said on stage; or, worse, as happened last night (and at other comedy shows I've been to), their ticket gives them the right to chat with the comedian while he's onstage trying to entertain the other 300 people who paid their twelve bucks.

"Let me explain something," Wilson said after the woman thankfully left. "When you see Bill Cosby, he's doing a song." Wilson then launched into a marvelous impersonation of Cosby's voice and intonation. "See?" he said at the conclusion. "That's a song. It flows. It has notes. Bill Cosby doesn't need someone sticking extra notes in there for him." He further emphasized his point by singing the first line of "Yesterday:" "Yesterday, all my troubles la la la la la la la la la la, far away."

Wilson is 100% correct on this matter. Comedians, unless they are a team (e.g., Bob and Ray, Pinkard and Bowden), are there to do a monologue, and they have no doubt spent years rehearsing their act as a solo. They are professionals, and they do not need help from anyone in the audience -- unless they specifically ask for it.

I have never seen a comedian -- even Gallagher, the "sledge-o-matic" watermelon-smashing superstar -- who has not made himself/herself available after the show to talk to fans, sign autographs, or pose for photos. THAT is the time to talk to them, not while they're on stage. Or, if it is that you think you're that darn funny, check with the comedy club's management and see when "open mic night" is (the Comedy Caravan's open performance night is called "Show Up & Go Up").

But please, do NOT go to a comedy show and try to have a friendly chat with the performer while he's doing his job trying to entertain. If you feel you just cannot restrain yourself, wear a muzzle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rounder Co-Chairman Bill Nowlin Celebrates Label's Anniversary

Category: Interview

When Rounder Records artist Charles Whitstein described Rounder as “37 wonderful years of music,” he spoke for all fans of the music that one of the largest independent labels has given to the world. As the label celebrates its 37th anniversary, co-founder Bill Nowlin took time to reflect on Rounder’s great history and rosy future.

“When we began,” Nowlin said, “we were pretty carefree as we built the company from the ground up. We each worked at other jobs from time to time in the very earliest days, and we all pooled whatever we could bring in. There was a lot of hard word involved, but it was also an adventure.”

The “adventure” began in college. Bill Nowlin, a political science major, roomed with Ken Irwin, a psychology major, at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Sharing a love for music as well as a room, the two began to discuss a record label after Irwin met Ken and Sherry Davidson after a fiddler’s convention. The Davidsons had started their own label to record old-time fiddlers, and when Irwin returned to his dorm room he discussed a similar proposition with Nowlin. A friend of Irwin’s, Marian Leighton, shared their vision for a label for roots music.

The concept needed a name, although Nowlin admits, “None of the three of us – Ken, Marian, and myself – remember exactly how the name came up. As people often do, we were talking through dozens of possible names and none of them felt right until we somehow came up with ‘Rounder.’ We liked the fact that it could be taken on more than one level and had several different meanings: a late 19th century/early 20th century term for a drifter or a hobo was a ‘rounder.’ And, records were round, so it sounded as though we were saying ours were even rounder. There’s an old game in England, which is arguably the predecessor of baseball, called ‘rounders.’ And, the term can apply to anyone who regularly makes the rounds, like an itinerant preacher or salesperson. It rolled off the tongue pretty well, too.”

Rounder Records was “born” on October 20, 1970, the date of the invoice for their first two albums, George Pegram and Cluck Old Hen by the Spark Gap Wonder Boys (the Pegram album is officially listed as Rounder 0001). “The first records we sold were five copies of each,” Nowlin said, “sold on consignment to Discount Records, a retail store in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

The initial releases also began Rounder's reputation as a bluegrass label, a reputation that continues to this day. Indeed, with artists such as J.D. Crowe and the New South, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, two-time reigning International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Entertainer of the Year award winners the Grascals, and reigning queen of bluegrass Alison Krauss all on the label, the connection to bluegrass is undeniable. Rounder is also a staunch supporter of the annual IBMA convention, sponsoring booths and showcases.

However, They Might Be Giants, a college rock favorite band, is also signed to Rounder, as is the currently most recognizable name in polka, Jimmy Sturr. “We’ve really enjoyed working with perennial winner Jimmy Sturr,” Nowlin said of the 16-time Grammy winner. “We’ve also been pleased to present some classic artists or groups – in the Cajun and zydeco fields, in New Orleans music generally, George Thorogood and the Destroyers in roots rock and blues music, and our ongoing Studio One series of vintage reggae and Jamaican music.”

Rounder has come a long way since those ten albums were delivered to the little record store in Harvard Square. The label now has a publishing company, Rounder Books. “From the beginning, we always thought about doing books as well as records,” Nowlin says, “but never got around to doing it until 2004. It’s been much more difficult to have success selling books than with our more proven area of expertise in marketing recorded music. We hope to be more active with books touching on music. That’s taken longer to develop, a little frustrating,” he admitted, “but that’s the way it’s been.”

Modern technology and music-buying habits have dramatically altered the record industry. As with all labels, Rounder has had to adjust. “With the changes in the business,” Nowlin stated, “ranging from the consolidation of record retailing in bigger and bigger chain stores to the advent of online piracy and file-swapping, there have been any number of challenges, and we’ve seen a large number of indie labels and record stores go out of business. To be able to remain independent in a world where everything seems to get gobbled up by multinational corporations is an accomplishment in its own right.

“In many ways,” Nowlin admitted, “it gets harder every year just to keep up. It’s challenging, and there’s an excitement in that, because we’ve obviously been able to meet most of the challenges and continue to do well. But, it’s not the easy, freewheeling business we started in. It’s like the rules keep changing, and it’s a constant scramble to keep up or keep ahead.”

Two things have been consistent throughout Rounder’s history. First is a sense of loyalty from the artists. Alison Krauss, once she became an established superstar, was wooed by a number of major labels. She turned them all down to remain on Rounder, where she has complete artistic control over her music. Charles Whitstein of the Whitstein Brothers, who received a 1990 Grammy nomination for their Rounder album Old Time Duets, said they never considered another label. “Rounder made a dream come true for two Louisiana boys,” Whitstein said, “who thought their style of music would no longer be heard.”

The second constant in Rounder is the ownership. “The same three music lovers who started Rounder remain the same three who own it today,” Nowlin said with justifiable pride, “and we’ve literally grown up at the same time as many of the artists we’ve been pleased to work with. There aren’t many entertainment enterprises that still have the same founders still active nearly 40 years later, and I’m sure that adds to a sense of continuity. We’re not an ever-changing cast of executives, and I also think it’s true that we’re also still doing this for the same reasons we began – a love of music. We’ve managed to just live out our lives doing something we passionately believe in and haven’t become more distant, ‘corporate’ types in the process.”

Rounder’s continued success relies on seeking out quality new music, as no label can rest on past accomplishments. “We’re still able to keep doing what we’ve always done,” Nowlin said, “seek out good music that inspires us and help make it available to people around the world. We’ve produced over 3,000 albums of music, many of which might never have been recorded otherwise.”

The ears of the owners apparently are keenly tuned to quality, given the awards that Rounder artists have on their mantles. Alison Krauss is the most awarded female in Grammy history, with 20 Grammys as of 2007 and two IBMA “Entertainer of the Year” trophies. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver currently have a seven-year streak as IBMA’s “Vocal Group of the Year,” while Rhonda Vincent had a seven-year streak as “Female Vocalist of the Year” end this year. The list of victories for Rounder artists is, Nowlin notes, “a tribute to the many talented people with whom we’ve been able to work.”

That long list of talent has increased by one very famous name: Robert Plant. The former Led Zeppelin front man and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee teamed up with Alison Krauss for Raising Sand, a superb project produced by T-Bone Burnett that ushers in Rounder’s 38th year. “The advance reviews have been everything we could have hoped for,” Nowlin raves. “Everyone seems to ‘get it,’ and that’s truly gratifying to us, and I am sure as well to T-Bone and to Robert and Alison.” Fans of both artists will undoubtedly be surprised, yet delighted, by the project, which has been in Plant’s mind since he worked with Krauss at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of Leadbelly in 2004.

“We’ve always loved being able to do three different things,” Nowlin said when discussing the Krauss/Plant project, “record and feature true traditional music, present passionate and heartfelt music in a given genre – like bluegrass – and to experiment sometime with mixing different kinds of music together. This record is incredibly successful in the latter two cases, while born out of deep respect for the traditions it draws upon.”

That deep respect continues to shine in the music that Rounder Records presents to the world.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sick Call: Porter Wagoner

Category: News

Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Fame member Porter Wagoner is in a Nashville hospital battling lung cancer.

A Grand Ole Opry spokesman announced that Wagoner, 80, was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this week. He has been in the hospital since October 15th. His condition is currently listed as serious.

Wagoner joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002. Among his many contributions to country music include "A Satisfied Mind," "Sorrow on the Rocks," "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," "Misery Loves Company," and "Green Green Grass of Home." He hosted a syndicated television series in the 60s and early 70s that featured Norma Jean, Dolly Parton, and banjo player Buck Trent.

Wagoner's biography, A Satisfied Mind: The Country Music Life of Porter Wagoner, written by Steve Eng, was published in 1992.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Trivia for October 20

Category: News/Trivia

Wanda Jackson turns 70 on this date.

Born Wanda Jean Jackson in Maud, Texas, Wanda was discovered by Hank Thompson. She was nicknamed "The Female Elvis" and is considered by many to be the first female rock & roll star. Jackson had numerous country hits beginning with 1961's "Right or Wrong."

One of her must-hear songs is "The Box It Came In." Written by Vic McAlpin, the song is one of the best wronged-woman revenge songs in country music, complete with a terrific punch line.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trivia for October 17

Category: News/Trivia

On this date in 2002, Beecher Ray "Pete" Kirby died at the age of 90.

Kirby was better known for over 60 years as "Bashful Brother Oswald," the dobro player and tenor singer in Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys.

He obtained his stage name during an improvised moment onstage in 1939. Acuff's band, the Smoky Mountain Boys, featured a girl banjo player named Rachel Veach. During the 30s, it was unheard of for a female to travel in a band with no relative in the band; therefore, the duo became "Sister Rachel Veach and her bashful brother, Oswald."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trivia for October 16

Category: News/Trivia

Jim Ed Norman is 59 today.

Long before he became the music executive he is today, Jim Ed Norman played piano in two bands from east Texas, Felicity and Shiloh.

Shiloh never amounted to much, but in retrospect it was a supergroup. The line-up included Norman, Al Perkins, Richard Bowden, and Don Henley.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, October 16-31

Category: News

October 16:

Jim Ed Norman born in Ft. Myers, Florida, 1948 (now 59)
Stoney Cooper born in Harman, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1977)
Doyle Wilburn died (cancer), 1982 (was 52)
Don Reno died (post-operative complications), 1984 (was 58)
Ralph Stanley Museum opened, 2004

October 17:

Earl Thomas Conley born in Portsmouth, Ohio, 1941 (now 66)
Alan Jackson born in Newman, Georgia, 1958 (now 49)
Tennessee Ernie Ford died (liver disease), 1991 (was 72)
Jay Livingston died (pneumonia), 2001 (was 86). Among the songwriter's many credits were "Bonanza!," which Johnny Cash recorded, and "The Hanging Tree," which Marty Robbins recorded.
Bashful Brother Oswald (Beecher Ray Kirby) died (cancer), 2002 (was 90)

October 18:

Chuck Berry born in San Jose, California, 1926 (now 81). Among the rock and roll legend's hits that have made it to the country chart are "Memphis" (#10 hit for Fred Knoblock, 1981), "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" (#3 hit for Waylon Jennings, 1970), "The Promised Land" (#3 hit for Freddy Weller, 1970), and "Johnny B. Goode" (#1 hit for Buck Owens, 1969).
Keith Knudsen of Southern Pacific born in Ames, Iowa, 1952 (now 55)
Harty Taylor of Karl & Harty died (stroke), 1963 (was 58)
Hank Williams married Billie Jean Jones, 1952. After Williams' death, she would marry Johnny Horton.
Don Hecht died (heart attack), 2002 (was 72)

October 19:

Arthur E. "Uncle Art" Satherley born in Bristol, England, 1889 (died 1986)
Charlie Chase born in Rogersville, Tennessee, 1952 (now 55)
Don Parmley of the Bluegrass Cardinals born in Oliver Springs, Tennessee, 1933 (now 74)
Ebo Walker (ne Harry Shelor) of Bluegrass Alliance and New Grass Revival born in Louisville, Kentucky, 1941 (now 66)
Jeannie C. Riley born in Anson, Texas, 1945 (now 62)
The first CMA Awards program was held, 1967. It was not televised.
Grant Turner died (heart failure), 1991 (was 79)

October 20:

Stuart Hamblin born in Kellyville, Texas, 1908 (died 1989)
Grandpa Jones born in Niagara, Kentucky, 1913 (died 1998)
Wanda Jackson born in Maud, Texas, 1937 (now 70)
Merle Travis died (heart attack), 1983 (was 65)
Rounder Records founded by Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin, and Marian Leighton, 1970. Mr. Nowlin says this "birth" of Rounder is based on the date of their first invoice.

October 21:

Owen Bradley born in Westmoreland, Tennessee, 1915 (died 1998)
Bill Black died (brain tumor), 1965 (was 39)
Mel Street born in Grundy, Virginia, 1933 (died 1978)
Mel Street died (suicide), 1978 (45th birthday)

October 22:

Leon Chappelear died (suicide), 1962 (was 53)
Shelby Lynn born in Quantico, Virginia, 1968 (now 39)
Dorothy Shay, the "Park Avenue Hillbillie," died (heart attack), 1978 (was 57)

October 23:

Dwight Yoakam born in Pikeville, Kentucky, 1956 (now 51)
Junior Bryant of Ricochet born in Pecos, Texas, 1968 (now 39)
Mother Maybelle Carter died (respiratory arrest), 1978 (was 68)
Merle Watson died (tractor accident), 1985 (was 36). His father Doc's long-lasting tribute to his late son is the annual bluegrass event known as "MerleFest."
Rusty Kershaw died (heart attack), 2001 (was 63)

October 24:

Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson born in Sabine Pass, Texas, 1930 (died 1959). Among his songwriter credits is "White Lightnin'" by friend George Jones and Hank Snow's "Beggar to a King."
Mark Gray (former member of Exile) born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1952 (now 55)
Kirk McGee died (natural causes), 1983 (was 83)
Rosey Nix Adams, daughter of June Carter Cash, died (carbon monoxide poisoning), 2003 (was 45)

October 25:

Mark Miller (Sawyer Brown) born in Dayton, Ohio, 1958 (now 49)
Jeanne Black born in Pomona, California, 1937 (now 70)
Cousin Minnie Pearl born in Grinders Switch (actually, Centerville), Tennessee, 1912 (died 1996)
Chely Wright born in Kansas City, Missouri, 1970 (now 37)
Roger Miller died (throat cancer), 1992 (was 56)
Johnnie Lee Willis died (heart ailment), 1984 (was 72)
Johnny Cash's last concert performance, Flint Michigan, 1997

October 26:

Keith Urban born in Whangarei, New Zeland, 1967 (now 40)
Hoyt Axton died (heart attack), 1999 (was 61)
Statler Brothers' final concert in their hometown of Salem, Virginia, 2002

October 27:

Snuffy Jenkins born in Harris, North Carolina, 1908 (died 1990)
Floyd Cramer born in Campti, Louisiana, 1933 (died 1997)
Dallas Frazier born in Spiro, Oklahoma, 1939 (now 68)
Ruby Wright born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1939 (now 68)
Lee Greenwood born in Southgate, California, 1942 (now 65)
Allan "Rocky" Lane died (cancer), 1973 (was 72). He is mentioned in the Statler Brothers' "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott."
Grand Ole Opry debuts at the Hillsboro Theater, 1934

October 28:

Bill Bolick of the Blue Sky Boys born in Hickory, North Carolina, 1917 (now 90)
Charlie Daniels born in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1936 (now 71)
Brad Paisley born in Glen Dale, West Virginia, 1972 (now 35)
Jimmy Skinner died (heart attack), 1979 (was 70)
Mel Foree died (cancer), 1990 (age unknown)

October 29:

Albert E. Brumley born in Spiro, Oklahoma, 1905 (died 1977)
Ramblin' Jimmie Dolan born in Gardena, California, 1916 (died 1994)
Sonny Osborne born in Hyden, Kentucky, 1937 (now 70)
Fred Maddox died (heart disease), 1992 (was 73)
Charlie Monk born in Noma, Florida, 1938 (now 69)

October 30:

Patsy Montana born in Hope, Arkansas, 1908 (died 1996)
Timothy B. Schmit of Poco and the Eagles born in Sacramento, California, 1947 (now 60)
T. Graham Brown born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1954 (now 53)
Clifton Clowers born in Wolverton Mountain, Conway County, Arkansas, 1891 (died 1994)
Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright married, 1937 (70 years!!)

October 31:

Kinky Friedman born in Chicago, Illinois, 1944 (now 63)
Dale Evans born in Uvalde, Texas, 1912 (died 2001)
Carl Belew died (cancer), 1990 (was 59)
Bob Atcher died (unknown causes), 1993 (was 79)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bye Bye Miss Americana Pie

Category: Opinion

I have credentials to attend the Americana Music Association conference in Nashville at the end of the month. I'm very excited.

So, what exactly is "Americana?"

That's a good question!

I know, that's a bad answer.

In one regard, you certainly cannot get a definition by looking at some of the artists scheduled to appear or showcase. Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, and Laurie Lewis are scheduled to be there. They're all bluegrass. Lyle Lovett is a keynote performer. He's...well, he's Lyle, a man who can perform country that would do George Jones proud and do big band jazz that'd make Glenn Miller happy. Webb Wilder, one of the best "roots rock" performers on earth, will be there (he's not country, but It Came From Nashville, from 1986, is an absolute must-have album!). Steve Forbert, a folk-rocker, will be there. He wrote "Samson and Delilah's Beauty Shop," which Wilder covered, and "What Kinda Guy?" that became "What Kinda Girl?" on Rosanne Cash's Seven Year Ache album. (He also got the career "kiss of death" by being tagged "the next Dylan" when his first album, Alive on Arrival, was released.) The Gougers, an alt-country band, will be playing at the all-day barbecue. Peter Case has the conference on his schedule. He was the lead singer of the early 80s rock band the Plimsouls before creating a masterful solo career with outstanding folk-rock albums such as The Man With the Blue Postmodern Fragmented Neotraditionalist Guitar and (one of my favorite album titles ever) Peter Case Sings Like Hell (which is a collection of old folk and country songs such as "Down in the Willow Garden").

Other than looking suspiciously very much like my record collection, there aren't a lot of clues from the artist line-up to define "Americana."

But on the other hand, that speaks volumes as to what Americana is. My favorite quote, one I have in practically all my profiles, is a remark from Sir Paul McCartney that I read in a 1974 issue of Hit Parader: "I just like good music. And, you know, you've gotta search for it." That sounds like an apt description of Americana music. Americana is Dale Watson bemoaning the fact that "rock and roll back in the 70s sounds like the country (crap) today" in "Nashville Rash." It's Webb Wilder singing Sonny Landreth's "Meet Your New Landlord" alongside covering Waylon Jennings' "Nashville Rebel." It's Uncle Tupelo singing the Louvin Brothers' "Great Atomic Power." It's Steve Earle singing "Copperhead Road," which he described when I saw him perform it live shortly before the album came out in 1987 as "the first heavy metal song written on the mandolin." It's good music, performed by artists who want to be good first, and if they sell, that's a bonus. These are the men and women who are just as much at home on a front porch pickin' as they are in a hot venue performing for their fans. Oh, and they most likely have time to shake their fans' hands at the end of the day, too.

If you're in Nashville, I hope to see you at the Americana Music Association conference from October 31 through November 4. It might not all be "country music," but I'll bet you a pile of Monopoly money it WILL all be good music.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Grascals, Lawson Among IBMA Winners

Category: News

The 17th annual International Bluegrass Music Association Awards were presented in Nashville on Thursday (10/4/07) at the Grand Ole Opry House. The awards featured some old favorites and new -- and unusual -- winners.

The Grascals, who began their career with the 2005 Emerging Artist award, won "Entertainer of the Year" for the second consecutive year. The band, featuring members who are veterans of Lonesome Standard Time, the Osborne Brothers' band, and Garth Brooks' band, is riding high on the success of its second Rounder album, Long List of Heartaches.

Another perennial winner is Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. The legendary group picked up their seventh consecutive Vocal Group of the Year award, and their fifth Gospel Recorded Performance award for "He Lives in Me."

Singer/songwriter/guitarist/DJ Chris Jones picked up two awards as well, one as co-writer of Song of the Year "Fork in the Road" (recorded by the Infamous Stringdusters, the band awarded the Emerging Artist of the Year award), and one as Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year for his nightly show on Sirius satellite's bluegrass channel.

Rob Ickes, who played in the Whitstein Brothers band with Jones in the mid-90s, was named Dobro Player of the Year for the ninth time. This makes him the most honored musician in IBMA history. (In the 17-year history of the awards, there have only been three recipients of the Dobro Player honor: Ickes, Jerry Douglas, and Phil Leadbetter.)

Blind fiddler Michael Cleveland was named Best Fiddler for the fifth time. Sam Bush, who hosted the awards ceremony, was named Mandolin Player for the fourth time, while Tony Rice picked up his sixth Guitar Player of the Year award. Missy Raines was named Bass Player of the Year for the seventh time, while the instrumental awards were rounded out by first-time winner Tony Trischka as Banjo Player of the Year.

Trischka's project on Rounder Records, Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, was honored as the Recorded Event of the Year. This award means that actor/comedian Steve Martin has an IBMA trophy, as he was one of the banjo players on the project.

The program also inducted two legends into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Howard Watts, who performed under the name Cedric Rainwater (1913-1970), was a member of the "classic" Blue Grass Boys line-up behind Bill Monroe that featured Chubby Wise, Lester Flatt, and Earl Scruggs. He also played bass with Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboys and Hank Snow. Carl Story (1916-1995) was also a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys before entering the service during World War II. It is his post-Monroe work that earned him the title "Father of Bluegrass Gospel Music" and his place in the Hall of Fame.

The IBMA Awards conclude the annual IBMA World of Bluegrass Convention, which is geared toward bluegrass performers and industry professionals. A three-day "Fan Fest" concludes the week-long event.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Category: Opinion

RFDTV is a blessing for fans of older country music, as they show The Porter Wagoner Show (with both Norma Jean and Dolly Parton as the featured "girl singer") and The Wilburn Brothers Show (their "girl singer" was a gal by the name of Loretta Lynn), as well as other shows featuring live performances.

At least RFDTV hasn't forgotten the Wilburn Brothers. It appears everyone else has.

CD Universe shows a whopping one Wilburn Brothers collection available. That's woeful for a duet that recorded with Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb, had over thirty charted songs, started the career of Patty Loveless, and had their own highly successful syndicated television show. There are artists who've recorded less music in their entire career who have more CDs available than the Wilburn Brothers. That's downright pitiful.

Without question, Teddy and Doyle Wilburn were not the best-liked individuals in Nashville. Their reputations as SOBs (and that does not stand for "Southern Ohio Businessmen"!) is sadly well-known. Their Sure-Fire Music publishing company owned the rights to Loretta Lynn's songs, and for years she refused to perform her own self-written tunes so as to not give a penny to the company (and, by extension, the Wilburns). The Wilburns and Lynn played a game of suit/countersuit in the early 70s. There's nary a mention of them in the biopic Coal Miner's Daughter.

However, much the same can be said of Webb Pierce. Pierce had a nasty habit of claiming half songwriter's credit for changing an article in a song or a note. It was no coincidence that, even though there was ample opportunity for the CMA to honor him during his lifetime, Pierce died without being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. (In fact, a cancer-stricken Pierce admitted in an interview in the summer of 1990 that he was hoping to live to see the CMA awards in October, certain that he was going to be the Hall of Fame recipient [no doubt based on the "dead and dying" notion -- die (e.g., Patsy Montana, Tammy Wynette) or have serious health problems (e.g., Marty Robbins, Tennessee Ernie Ford) and your chances for induction increase dramatically]; however, the 1990 inductee was another seriously ill performer, Tennessee Ernie.) Pierce was not inducted for ten years after his death despite having more #1 hits in country music than anyone in the 1950s, and when he was inducted, it was with nine other acts, so he never received the singular spotlight. That's a long time to carry a grudge.

Doyle Wilburn died of cancer in 1982. When Teddy died, days short of his 72nd birthday in 2003, I truly expected the ill feelings to be buried with him. Alas, it has not happened as of yet. Loretta Lynn has (to date, unsuccessfully) sued Sure-Fire to recover the songs she wrote while under contract to them. Teddy's family was none too pleased with his will establishing scholarships for college students but passing nothing around to his relatives.

Are these bitter feelings, some of which stretch back to the 1970s, keeping the Wilburn Brothers out of the Hall of Fame? More significantly, are they keeping the Wilburns' music out of the CD bins? There would be few things more sad than to think that the world is being deprived of some of the greatest country music of the 1960s because people are still burdening themselves with resentment.